SCAC Student-Athlete Initiative a Huge Success

SCAC Student-Athlete Initiative a Huge Success

SUWANEE, Ga. – The Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference was represented by 18 student-athletes last week at the 2012 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind. Made possible through the NCAA Division III Strategic Initiative Grant, the student-athletes participated in a wide range of activities – from education sessions to business sessions to the NCAA Honors Celebration.

“What an incredible week we had in Indianapolis,” said SCAC Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry. “Our student-athletes took full advantage of all that the NCAA Convention had to offer and were engaging on all fronts – administratively and socially. I can’t tell you how many people – fellow commissioners, presidents and athletics directors – came up to me and commented on how impressed they were with our kids. Without a doubt, this initiative has proven to be the best use of grant funds during my tenure with the conference.”

Hanberry said the grant from the NCAA provides the conference an annual vehicle to focus on different areas of social responsibility and integration. For the 2011-12 academic year, the focus was Diversity and Gender Equity.

“One way that the conference office can help enhance or grow a more diverse populace of future administrators is to engage students while they are still on our campuses and provide these students an opportunity to experience the various professional development seminars and the social activities available as part of the NCAA Convention,” said Hanberry. “Hopefully, some of these young men and women will become interested in pursuing an athletics administrative position upon graduation and see this as a viable career path – be it at a SCAC institution or at another institution of higher learning.”

Student-athletes from nine of the SCAC’s 12 member institutions attended, including: Emily Brzuzy, Erika Higgenbotham and De’Andre Holmes of Austin College; Tiarra Goode of Birmingham-Southern College; Kelsey Morell and Maggie Harkins of Colorado College; Heather Capozzella and Jarred Priester of the University of Dallas; Brittiny Casteen of Hendrix College; Raven Scott of Millsaps College; Lexi Vassell and Arness Holsey of Oglethorpe University; Taylor Wright, Shae Seagraves, Abigail O’Connor, Daniel Ayala and Stephen Montes of Southwestern University; and Sal Perdomo of Trinity University.

“The presence of the SCAC delegation at the 2012 Convention helped to reinforce the student-athlete experience, which is at the heart of the DIII Philosophy,” said Dan Dutcher, NCAA Vice President for Division III. “The SCAC student-athletes were very active and engaged, and added greatly to several business sessions.  Their attendance and participation was very well received by our DIII delegates.  The DIII governance structure leadership will work with our DIII SAAC and conference commissioners to build on the success of this model at future conventions.”

During the Convention, junior volleyball player Raven Scott of Millsaps College, one of the 18 SCAC student-athletes in attendance, posted a daily blog recapping some of the activities that she and her fellow student-athletes experienced. Each of those entries can be accessed here:

“I really enjoyed my time at the Convention,” said Scott. “It definitely gives me a greater appreciation, not only for Division III athletes and all the sports and championships we have, but also for our administration and our coaches who spend so much time coming to the Convention learning what the NCAA and the rules are about. It makes the experience better for all of us – for now and for the future.”

Southwestern University, with five representatives, had the largest contingent of SCAC student-athletes in attendance. Dr. Glada Munt, Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics at Southwestern, had the opportunity to spend time with the group during several business sessions and luncheons.

"Watching the SCAC student-athlete representatives interact and experience the NCAA Convention last week was the highlight of my trip to Indianapolis,” said Dr. Munt. “As an athletic director I was amazed, intrigued, amused, impressed, and proud of all of our student-athletes. The goals and expectations that lay behind the decision of the NCAA Division III Initiatives to bring student-athletes to the Convention were certainly exceeded by our SCAC student-athletes. I have to believe that their experiences last week will be some of their best memories when they cross the stage for each of their respective graduations!"

For some, the highlight of the Convention was the glamorous Friday evening event that is the annual Honors Celebration. Daniel Ayala of Southwestern met and posed for pictures with his long-time hero David Robinson, formerly of the United States Naval Academy and the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA. Oglethorpe University’s Lexi Vassell persuaded Robinson to let her try on his NBA championship ring and posed for a picture while wearing it.

That same evening, while in a discussion with Doris Burke, the former basketball star at Providence College and current ESPN broadcaster, Southwestern’s Taylor Wright, when mentioning that she too would like to explore a career in broadcasting, was offered Ms. Burke’s personal e-mail address for future correspondence.

“I think the best thing about the Honors Celebration was that we celebrated people who were well-rounded student-athletes,” said Abigail O’Connor of Southwestern. “The major thing that we all forget, especially with the emphasis on Division I athletics, is that we are students first. Seeing people being celebrated for their achievements in both academics and athletics was refreshing and inspiring.”

For others, the simpler things discovered over a week of fraternizing with fellow SCAC student-athletes at the NCAA Convention will be the bigger takeaway.

“The thing I enjoyed the most about getting to know other students and student-athletes in our conference is the dedication that everyone has to their sport,” said Heather Capozzella of the University of Dallas. “Everyone is actually so friendly. When you’re in a competition, you’re nervous and you don’t want to talk to anyone because everyone seems so frightening. But when you really get to know them, everyone is a lot of fun; everyone has great and different personalities – I just really enjoyed getting to know each and every one here.”

One common theme throughout the week was the sense of pride the SCAC student-athletes displayed in representing their institutions and the SCAC while serving as ambassadors for all Division III student-athletes.

“Walking around the NCAA Convention, I definitely felt a great sense of pride being one of the few student-athletes here,” said Brittiny Casteen of Hendrix College. “It helped to represent what the NCAA is about – it’s about the students and it’s about the athletes. Just being able to have our voices heard and to actually have people come up to us and tell us that our voices and our opinions and our concerns actually mean something to them and they’ve actually listened to us – that gives you a great sense of pride.”  

“I took great pride in representing the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and Trinity University,” said Sal Perdomo. “Being some of the few student-athletes at the Convention, we really made an impression on the athletics directors, presidents and faculty athletic representatives at the Convention and they really enjoyed having us here.”